Prepacking produce pays
More and more, supermarkets are realising the benefits of having fresh produce packaged before it reaches them. There is a significant reduction in waste and transit damage and consumers can’t graze while shopping. Another benefit is labelling accuracy - with prepackaged produce checkout staff do not have to be able to recognise the product and at self-checkouts clients cannot advertently or inadvertently claim that the product is a cheaper alternative.
Modern contact packers like AAA Packers offer a safe and cost-effective service for retailers wanting the benefits of prepackaged produce as it carries HACCP and quality system certification.
AAA Packers is an expanding fruit and vegetable packer, supplying the major supermarket chains. It also does fresh-produce contract packing. Needing another weigh labeller to cope with increased business, AAA installed a Bizerba GML-E 40 on advice from Matthews Australasia.
It’s a decision they haven’t thought twice about, says warehouse manager Jannelle Harris.
“Firstly, the speed is fabulous, and it’s non-stop; there’s no stopping to weigh, then label, it just goes straight through.
“One of the biggest things for me is its user-friendliness. It’s simple, so anyone can use it, but because it is password protected, they can’t muck up any programming. So if someone’s pressed something and got it wrong, I can quickly fix it, I don’t need to get a tech here to fix the program.
“The other thing about that is because it is all touch screen, it’s very easy to teach workers who don’t speak English how to use it. A lot of workers in the prepack industry have limited English, so that, along with the embossed diagram of how it works on the front of it, are really handy features - you just can’t go wrong. I don’t even need my glasses on to have a look at that.”
AAA Packers uses the weigh labeller to print the vendor number and date onto labels on a variety of prepacked fresh produce, and then either a per kilogram or individual price according to the product.
“For example, if it has to be check-weighed, like broccoli where consumers pay by weight, or if it’s a price per item such as lettuce, Matthews programmed all that into the Bizerba.” Labels are preprinted with each supermarket’s art requirements.
Set up is also fast and cost effective.
“You know that the label is set to go, because it will shoot out two labels when you set up, so you don’t waste any packaging. It’s a big cost if you have to run 20 or 30 labels on a line if they’re not printing properly. That’s just waste. This? No waste; so it saves money on packaging because of that, it’s fantastic.”
And, Harris says, while machine throughput is fast, printing on the labels is clear and easy to read, meaning no rejection by retailers.
A stop button on the machine’s front is also an excellent safety and time-saving feature.
“The best part is the stop-and-go button. If I need to stop it, I just press that button on the front, I don’t have to go and turn the power off and on. So it’s a safety issue, but also, it doesn’t hold the whole line up; I may stop it, but it can still be actually flow-wrapping product. Time-wise, it’s brilliant.
“The Bizerba sits just behind my desk, and it’s quiet; not only that, there are no ribbons, so I don’t get my hands dirty - I love that! It’s so clean.
“If you look at most weigh-labellers, there are stickers all over them and the conveyor. But this one, there may be the odd sticker, and we stop it from the front of the machine, peel that label off and get going again. They’re very easy to clean.”
Dealing with produce-pricing changes is straightforward.
A price change can also mean a per-piece weight change. “Say when butternut pumpkin changes from $1.99 to $1.59, other machines I’ve used can be a bit precious here, even to remove the printer, because as the label comes through, printing has to be on a separate part of the label. With this one, you actually move the printing head over slightly - left or right, wherever you need - it’s so flexible; there’s no unscrewing this or that.”
Harris is also impressed with Matthews’ service.
“When Matthews installed and commissioned it for us, they did it properly. I’ve had quite a few machines put in over my time, and the technician will stay for a couple of hours. Matthews stayed all day. And then came back the next day to make sure it was working 100% before they left.
“They asked me, ‘What would you like to know? Do you want us to train anyone else?’ They came to me, I didn’t have to chase them. They asked things like, ‘Do you feel your people are confident? Are you confident?’ And yes, I am! I can ring service any time I need. I can’t fault this machine one little bit. And I cannot fault Matthews’ service.
“I’ve been 30 years in this industry, running warehouses and packing, and I’ve come across a lot of packing machines. This is seriously one of the best things in fresh produce weigh labelling that I have seen and used in the whole time I’ve been doing prepacking.”
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